How lack of sleep ‘kills’ memory

The most thorough experimental study to date on the effects of sleep deprivation on people’s daily routine was conducted by researchers at the Michigan State University (MSU). As they saw, the few hours of sleep at night have a tremendous impact on our daytime activities – from the baker who puts a lot of salt on the biscuits he makes until the surgeon makes mistakes during an operation.

Although there have been many studies on sleep deprivation, the level at which this deficiency affects the memory and successful completion of each individual’s duties has never been thoroughly investigated. So far, however, as scientists from Michigan did, and what they discovered and published in the journal Journal of Experimental Psychology: General is probably not optimistic.

Mistakes and accidents

“If one looks at mistakes and accidents in surgery, on public transport, or even on the operation of nuclear power plants, he will see that sleeping is one of the main reasons for human error,” said Kimberley Fen, assistant professor of psychology and Director of the MSU’s Sleep and Learning Laboratory. “There are many professionals in positions of responsibility who suffer from lack of sleep. Figures show that about 25% of people who have a lot of tasks to carry out daily, called to follow instructions and deal with multi-level objects, have fallen asleep at work. ”

Some of these mistakes, such as the baker’s addition of salt twice in a recipe, are not that serious. However, some of the major disasters due to human error – such as Chernobyl, the Exxon Valdez oil spill or the Challenger space shuttle explosion – as well as accidents involving trains or cars that occur very often, have at least to some extent Their “root” to lack of sleep.

“Every day, surgical groups forget about 11 sponges in the body of patients undergoing surgery – we’re talking about 4,000 total errors that can be due to lack of sleep. Our study suggests that people with a shortage of sleep should not be engaged in tasks that can be interrupted by someone while they are working – or they should only be engaged in such tasks for short periods of time, “she noted.

The experiment of … insomnia

In order to reach their conclusions, Dr. Fen and her colleagues asked 234 volunteers to go to the MSU Sleep Laboratory at 10 pm For two hours the volunteers performed a series of tasks. From time to time, their researchers were interrupted, and they had to remember where they were left to continue the process. At midnight, half of the participants returned to their home to sleep while the other half stayed awake all night in the

Sleeping Room. The next morning they were asked to complete the whole process that they had been asked to finish the night before. What arose was a great increase in mistakes of people who had not slept at night. “All volunteers met the performance criteria at the beginning of the experiment.

However, 15% of those who did not sleep at night did a lot of mistakes in the morning, compared with only 1% in the sleeping group, “said Fen and added:” In addition, people with a lack of sleep not only did more mistakes, but they also showed a gradual increase in mistakes associated with memory processes – this was not observed in the other group. This shows that the sleepless group experienced a major difficulty in remembering how to proceed properly.

“Remembering the memory was, according to the researchers, the real “culprit” that did not allow people who were deprived of sleep to successfully carry out the tasks assigned to them. Dr. Fen explained that on a daily basis many events distract our attention while we work – either a text message or an e-mail, or just a question they ask us to answer. As he said, all of this is inevitable but particularly aggravating for people with a lack of sleep.

“Working with someone with reduced cognitive ability has wide negative effects. Students may spend a night’s reading reading the next day not having retained the information they need for their exams. The most alarming is that people in key positions are likely to put themselves and other members of society at risk due to lack of sleep. It is a problem we must not overlook. “